Interior design is a broad and exciting career field. It involves just the right mix of creative and artistic outputs, coupled with enough teamwork and organizational interaction to keep the job fun and interesting. Making spaces beautiful and functional, safe and compliant, and meeting customers varying needs are the goals of a successful interior designer.
Interior designers work for a variety of organizations. Their overall goal is to make living and working spaces comfortable, functional, safe, and attractive. They must have a creative and artistic eye, good computer skills, and a robust knowledge of codes and accessibility laws. Interior designers often work closely with their clients, with building and construction crews, and with architects and engineers.
Designers typically focus on one aspect of the industry, like commercial buildings, residential homes, resorts, and hotels, or healthcare workplaces. Individual designers can also target their work by specializing in sustainable or environmentally-friendly "green" design.
As with any creative or artistic profession, interior designers must enjoy problem-solving and possess a high level of creativity.
Artistic vision is essential, as is the artistic skill with drawing and computer design programs. They must possess the ability to visualize their goal and put it not only on paper but form it into reality. To do this, they must work with a team of other professionals, many of which are coming from different backgrounds with different skillsets. Interpersonal and communication skills are key, and they are often what sets designers apart from one another.
Interior Design Niches
While interior designers often cross borders within their field, there are several areas of concentration. As with nearly every other industry, if you make your business more specialized, then you can demand the highest salaries.
These are just a few examples of niches within the interior design industry.
Making buildings more green and more sustainable is a burgeoning market for designers. Beyond the obvious need for such practices, it often makes business sense for business and residential customers to use modern and energy-saving design practices throughout their project. Doing so saves money and attracts clients.
Sustainable designers are certified through the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) from the U.S. Green Building Council. Many corporations are seeking out LEED-certified designers to help with their projects so that their buildings can be officially certified.
While it's certainly not the first job that comes to mind, healthcare design is an important function of interior design. Healthcare spaces have extreme safety and regulatory requirements and are inherently complicated places. Designers can focus on not only ensuring the space is organized and easy to work in, but also welcoming, calming, and beautiful for patients who might not want to be there.
Kitchen and Bath Design
Residential remodeling and renovations jobs usually focus on the kitchen and bath, and as such, this is where the majority of design work is done. Retail customers are looking for help choosing materials, colors, and layout from a wide array of options. As their designer, you might also be charged with working with a general contractor or even recommending service providers.
Of course, residential customers may also want to help to redesign or renovating their entire home. Many designers in this field work for, or team up with, a design center or home improvement store. Furniture stores are also great places to connect with clients, and many have designers on staff.
Many companies emphasize employee happiness and health. Having a well-designed space to keep employees comfortable and safe during the workday is a huge part of this. Each corporation will have a different set of variables they are looking to solve, including branding and corporate identity, franchisee obligations, corporate color palettes, environmental programs, and, of course, budgetary constraints.
Projects may differ depending on how the organization interacts with the public. If a company welcomes clients into their facility, their focus may include more beautiful design since it is part of their sales efforts.
In some instances, corporate design involves working with builders on new construction projects. But it also involves renovating existing workspaces for a new look and feel. Corporate design can encompass any organization, like private small business, multinational firms, government offices, or even colleges and universities.
Accessibility is the goal of the universal designer. Making living and workplaces accessible for all is a challenging task, and requires a broad range of knowledge and experience in local codes and laws, as well as national standards. Everything from the construction and design of access ramps to the width and layout of doorways and walking paths can be analyzed from this perspective. This is a vitally important aspect of design for any company that has contact with the general public, but also any company looking to diversify their workforce.
Just like many other creative professionals, many interior designers work as freelancers. There are many advantages to working as a freelancer, but there are also many pitfalls. While self-employed workers get to set their schedules, pay rates, and choose the jobs they want to take, they are also entirely responsible for the success of their business. Time must be spent finding and bidding for jobs. Accounting, billing, and other book-keeping tasks will also take some time. As a result, freelancers need to be acutely aware of the total time input to their jobs so that they can receive proper compensation.
Interior design agencies are companies designed around making the process easier for individual designers and their customers. As a designer, your salary will be less, and you will have fewer growth opportunities. But you will be free of the tasks related to operating the business, and you will have more time for hands-on design chores. For customers, large design firms can offer more expertise than individual freelance designers, and possibly more than one perspective, too.
There are many companies, both large corporations, and small firms, that hire interior designers to work for their teams. These companies may be furniture stores that need to set up sales displays to show their products in the best light. They may also be available to customers to help them layout their homes. Builders and construction companies hire designers for their projects and model homes. Some companies hire their own designers to manage corporate buildings and facilities. Large hotel and resort chains may have designers on staff, setting and creating the brand's look and feel.
Factors Affecting Interior Design Salaries
The salary for any job or career choice is affected by many factors. The pay rate for interior designers is perhaps more variable than some, considering there is a wide range of jobs and responsibilities associated with the role. Just a few of the factors affecting the salary of an individual designer include their education, credentials, licensing, and, of course, their place of business.
Designers with specialized education can often command higher pay rates than those lacking formal training. A bachelor's degree is considered the minimum level necessary to work as an interior designer, though it does not necessarily matter what field that degree is in. As with many other fields, many working interior designers began their careers in a different field entirely and came to design late in the game.
Degree programs usually include coursework that includes computer-aided design (CAD), drawing, business aspects, and sustainability. Typically, these courses will cover the breadth of design field options available to young designers in order to give them a taste of what is out there. Interior design degrees are available at the associate's, bachelor's, and master's levels.
Higher education programs are typically accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design of the Council for Interior Design Accreditation. Together these two organizations accredit over 500 colleges, universities, and institutes.
Credentials or Certifications
Even after completing an accredited program, professionals need to keep learning. This keeps one abreast of current industry trends and customer needs. Most of these are voluntary programs, and they make a great way to differentiate yourself from the competition. Additionally, they're a fantastic way to learn a new aspect of design that could open new niches for your business. Programs like environmental design or sustainability are great ways to stay current. These sorts of programs are available from a wide range of providers, including many professional and trade associations.
Most states in the U.S. require interior designers to be licensed. Others allow unlicensed individuals to do the work, but then do not allow them to use the title "interior designer." Getting licensed is usually a simple matter of passing a state-approved examination. The most commonly used test is the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ). To take the exam, you must have a bachelor's degree and two years of experience working as an interior designer.
Location and Cost of Living
Where you live may be the single biggest factor affecting your pay. Areas like New York and Los Angeles have a high demand for experienced designers and a robust market for employees. While the cost of living in these areas is higher, so too are the salaries. The opposite is true in rural areas, where many companies will forgo interior design work and may value it less. While there is still work in these areas, it becomes much more a factor of supply and demand. If there is work and you are the only designer in town, you may find great success. However, if multiple design firms are competing over jobs, it may become cost-prohibitive to operate in these areas. Market analysis is essential if you are looking to pick up freelance work in any new area.
If you are looking at doing retail interior design, the higher-income areas will provide better job prospects. Wealthy clients are far more likely to value the services of an interior designer when remodeling or renovating.
Average Interior Design Salaries
As noted above, the salary that individuals can expect to make as an interior designer is variable. According to salary.com, beginning designers in the U.S. range from $36,449 to $50,406 annually, while more experienced individuals can make between $43,953 and $63,819.
According to Architectural Digest, the salary of interior designers is very dependant on credentialing and certification. They quote that the average wage for uncredentialed designers is $60,000, while it is $75,000 for designers with just one or more credential. Specifically, respondents to their salary survey who possessed the Council for Interior Design Qualification certification reported an income that was $12,600 more than noncertified respondents. In their survey, ten percent of interior designers are making more than $125,000 a year.
Inside the United States, interior designers based in the west coast region, mountain west, and New England all make the most with an average salary of $75,000 annually. Designers from the south and southeast fared slightly less at $67,500, while individuals in the upper midwest only made an average of $63,000. Remember, however, that the cost of living is highest in the places where salaries are higher, so in reality, the disparity here is not as significant as it seems at first.
Interior design is a dynamic field that is wonderful for creative individuals who enjoy problem-solving. If you have a passion for making spaces more functional, more beautiful, and more appealing, than interior design is a great career.
Education is key, just like in most other fields. Even if you didn't go to school for graphic design, getting credentialed and certified makes all the difference in salary. Even getting just one certification can help you make more money, and it helps you score more work and branch out into new markets. Staying informed of industry trends and customer needs is vital too. For example, growth potential is enormous if you specialize in environmental or sustainable design.
One of the best things about design as a career is that variety of specializations available. These options give individual designers many careers choices and paths to take. As you work in the field, you can branch out into new areas or learn and focus on one area. Either way, expertise is appreciated and valued by many clients.
As an aspiring interior designer, you must create a professional design portfolio website to showcase your work and profile. Your online portfolio is the key to attract and impress potential employers, clients or collaborators. Design portfolio websites need to go beyond just showcasing your designs. You also need to think out of the box, uncover your creative genius, find your expression and present your work in the best way possible.
Make sure that the portfolio website builder you choose offers the flexibility, features, and ease-of-use you need to put together a professional website without requiring any coding knowledge. That's where a bit of inspiration comes in handy.
Pixpa is a website builder platform that is trusted by creative pros around the world.
Pixpa offers an easy yet powerful drag-and-drop website builder and includes Client galleries, eCommerce, and blogging tools to enable you to manage your complete online presence through one seamless platform. Explore all features that make Pixpa the perfect choice for designers and other creative professionals.
Showcasing your work online through a well-made portfolio website is essential even for students of design. Your student portfolio website will help you apply for higher studies, internships, jobs, and also if you are planning to start your design practice. As you grow professionally, the role of your design portfolio website in helping you gain new clients becomes increasingly important. It acts as your gateway to the world and the first interface between you and most potential clients. Hence, it's essential that your design portfolio website is designed to complement and showcase your work clearly without being distracting.
Tip: If you are looking to build your design student portfolio website, Pixpa offers a special 50% discount for student portfolio websites.
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